Cardinal Müller Throws a Metaphorical Stone into Pope Francis’ Backyard

February 14, 2019

Communion for the divorced and “remarried”, the eternity of hell, women priests, priestly celibacy, religious pluralism: Cardinal Ludwig Müller denounced “the growing confusion about the doctrine of the Faith,” in a document seen by the Vatican as an attack on Pope Francis.

In the face of growing confusion about the doctrine of the Faith, (…) to keep silent about these and the other truths of the Faith and to teach people accordingly is the greatest deception.

From the first sentence of his Manifesto for the Faith, published on February 8, 2019, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith makes it clear that his intention is to denounce, without naming them, the ambiguities of the present pontificate. 

Vatican Insider, one of the Vatican’s unofficial communication channels, makes no mistake: “The corrections are precise and specific (…), Cardinal Müller criticizes the doctrine of Pope Francis, underlining its so-called confusion,” wrote the Vaticanist Domenico Agasso on February 9.

Cardinal Müller’s Manifesto was published after the Document on Human Fraternity, co-signed on February 4, 2019, in the United Arab Emirates by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Muhammed Al-Tayyeb.

In this text (link in original Italian), the pope evokes a theory—foreign to both the Tradition of the Church and Divine Revelation—according to which “the pluralism and the diversity of religions are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.” Were these remarks the straw that broke the camel’s back for the high-ranking prelate? 

It would seem so based on the cardinal’s declaration:

We are to resist the relapse into ancient heresies with clear resolve, which saw in Jesus Christ only a good person, brother and friend, prophet and moralist.

A Response Swiftly Returned

The day after the cardinal’s Manifesto was published, the first signs of a counterattack came from the Vatican Insider that sought to put Cardinal Müller’s remarks into perspective, recalling that his office as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was not renewed in 2017 and implying that his possible resentment surely explains his attack on February 8.

The newspaper also pointed out that the Manifesto was published through Lifesite, a conservative American website that openly calls for Pope Francis’ resignation. 

A way of eluding the doctrinal dimension of the question at hand, and of echoing the theory of Cardinal Walter Kasper who denounced in the columns of Il Fatto Quotidiano on January 27, 2019, a conservative conspiracy against Pope Francis. 

In fact, Cardinal Kasper also reacted on February 10 on, to his fellow German cardinal’s Manifesto, accusing him of “spreading confusion and division.”

But it will probably take more than that to get rid of this new stone thrown into the Argentinian pope’s backyard in the middle of winter by a cardinal who makes a point of recalling that he still has access to…the pope emeritus Benedict XVI.